Posted by: Harold Knight | 02/13/2012

A few Talents

A funny thing happened on the way to my blog a few weeks ago. I started writing poetry—or what comes as close to poetry as I can write. My “funny thing” reference isn’t simply a matter of trying to be clever (although it is that), but I was suddenly thinking—for perhaps obvious reasons—of the song “Free” from Funny Thing as I was reading some of the over-the-top exultation of the LGBT community concerning the Appeals Court decision on California’s Prop 8.

When I’m free to be whatever I want to be,
Think what wonders I’ll accomplish then!
When the master that I serve is me and just me—
Can you see me being equal with my countrymen?
Can you see me being Pseudolus the citizen?
Can you see me being–give it to me once again—— FREE.

That seems ridiculous to bother to point out, but that process is about a fifty-year development in my mind. That I am neither brilliant nor over-talented is obvious (and I’m not saying that simply from false modesty). I’ve written here before about being aware of my limitations because I have spent much of my life in the presence of undeniably brilliant people.

My writing is not going to win any awards for clarity or understanding, so why not write it in the form in which I am most comfortable. My postings over the last two years are really prose-poems, that is, images and ideas jumbled together in a way that is logical but not rhetorically sound. One must get to the end of a posting to understand what I was writing about at the beginning.

It seems very pretty,” [Alice] said when she had finished it, “but it’s rather hard to understand! … Somehow it seems to fill my head with ideas–only I don’t exactly know what they are (1).

So here’s my prose-poem (or whatever it is) for today. Be warned this whatever-it-is contains adult material. Well, probably not quite “adult.”

My late ex-mother-in-law*
prayed, when she was pregnant
with the child who became the woman I married,
for a “good child with a few talents.”
Her prayers were effective (or chance and nurture were).
Praying, I have discovered, does not always (ever?) work.
It’s the few talents she prayed for that are important to me.

I knew him
before he was that famous.
He had everything going for him—
looks tall blond blue-eyed and handsome.
He was/is an organist, too, and when we
met he had a position,
a position I coveted, I prayed for one similar.
We are virtually the same age
(were then, are still—being both still alive).
Married. He was married.
I had been divorced four short years.
Situations being different
(a thirty year displacement),
I, too, could have been married in that state
to the man (I professed) I loved.

I knew him before he was (or I was)
that honest.
Before AIDS, for one thing.
I don’t know what kept me from the love
(it could not have been love) he wanted to
make on the sofa of my partner’s home—
my home? I was never one hundred percent certain.
He was married, closeted,
I was partnered, out, and yet it was I,
I—in a rare moment of self-restraint—who said,
I have wondered for thirty-three years why I said, “No.”
My habitual response was not to say, “No.”

Is this too private too personal too explicit
to write in public? Not in this day of Oprah and Fox.
My “No” came from the difference between
us—he successful, honored, handsome, tidy,
on top of his (our) game.
And now famous, even in his retirement.
I was of that list only honored, at least respected.
I had the (almost) PhD. He had the talent
and the blond hair.

I’ve never had the blond hair, blue eyes, and the
Nate Berkus apartment (or, in those days, the
gentrified house in the South End). Can I be gay?
One must not jump to the conclusion that I
am working out a lack of self-love or self-respect
or self-acceptance in this musing.
There is that to be dealt with, but not here.
My question is one of being
“a good child with a few talents.”
We all

still think about two classes of humans:
Those who can do art and those who cannot.
Those people in the first group are thought
to be special people with special talents.
Thus, you have either got it or you do not.
One does not, for instance, think this way
about how fast people can run,
or how well they can add columns of figures (2).

I thought him to be such a
“special [person] with special talents”
that I could not compete in his world.
I’d like to think my “No” had some portion
of morality ethics decency fair play,
but I doubt it.
I’m not sure any of our “No’s” are ever that noble.
My no was “No” to myself.

People’s everyday creative accomplishments
often go unrecognized as such. These oversights
can be serious; they signify a potential loss
in personal awareness, identity, potency, and mental health,
in the opportunity for conscious development of one’s
innovative talents, and the ability to benefit to self and others (3).

My “No” to myself, however, I realize now
has finally become a “Yes” to myself.
I don’t know if my mother prayed
for “a good child with a few talents.”
She was blessed (?) with a (fairly) good child
with a couple of talents. I can play a mean game of Scrabble.

For much of my life I have worried and fretted that
I am not really a gay man.
I’d like someone to call Nate Berkus and tell him there’s this
poor old queen in Dallas who needs his help. Really.
But my “No” was about me. It was about being true to who I am.
Not moral. Not good. Not handsome. Not a concert musician.

It was about stating who I am.

. . . publicizing one’s identity is related to the salience
of identity-consistent goals. Investment in goals that are not
consistent with one’s identity is associated with . . .
hiding one’s identity. Yet, the capacity to elaborate on such goals,
. . . is a predictor of personality development over time.
The happy, mature person may be one who is able to acknowledge
what is regrettable in life without being consumed by it
and to see the multitude of best possible lives that may
be sources of fulfillment (4).

I’m not tall, blond and blue-eyed with an apartment
Nate does not need to visit.
I’m not glib and campy and smart and one of those
gays with lots of disposable income that
the CEO of Goldman-Sachs thinks should be married
(to increase his bottom line).
I’m just me.
And I can play Erik Satie’s “Mass of the Poor”
on the organ, write a (moderately successful) poem
or two. And do this.

*Her daughter and I were married for seven years, then divorced. Her daughter married again while I lived in serial (somewhat) monogamy with three men. My ex-wife died in 2002, her mother in 2004. Hence, my late ex-mother-in-law, and her daughter, my late ex-wife. I have poetry in process about the strange intertwining of our families from before we were born. Soon.
(1) Carroll, Lewis. The Annotated Alice. Ed. Martin Gardner. New York: W.W. Norton, 1990 (197).
(2) Richards, Ruth. “Everyday Creativity And The Arts.” World Futures: The Journal of General Evolution 63.7 (2007): 500-525.
(3) Richards, op. cit.
(4) King, Laura A., and Nathan Grant Smith. “Gay And Straight Possible Selves: Goals, Identity, Subjective Well-Being, And Personality Development.” Journal Of Personality 72.5 (2004): 967-994.



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